Multi-criteria assessment of the sustainability of farming systems in the reclaimed desert lands of Egypt
On newly cultivated lands in deserts as in the majority of dryland areas, the sustainability of agricultural systems is often debated in terms of socioeconomic viability and agro-ecological longevity. In these contexts, livestock production systems have raised controversial debates regarding their roles and effects in terms of sustainable development. The objective of this paper is to assess the level (and types) of crop-livestock integration in the dryland systems and whether they result in different well-being and improved efficiency of these agroecosystems. Using an empirical study in the newly reclaimed desert lands of the west part of the Nile Delta (Egypt), we proposed an assessment of the sustainability of the family farming systems using two approaches: a) multiple factor analysis and b) multi-criteria assessment. The multi-criteria assessment highlighted how family farm sustainability depends highly on the integration of livestock into the system, with technical or economic efficiency effects. The multiple factor analysis allowed the distinction of two types of farm systems in which livestock activity could be a source in increasing labour productivity or ensuring the viability of the farm in both short and long terms. So, the two approaches brought out the critical role of livestock in the overall efficiency of the system. However, factor analysis highlighted different profiles of integration and diversification based on-farm assets, and the multi-criteria assessment provided a comprehensive framework for conceptualizing aggregated indicators for the development of sustainable farming systems for the end-users. So these two methods may be complementarity to develop and assess the causal processes of a sustainability assessment.